INITIATIVES TO STRENGTHEN RURAL BIOECONOMY IN JOHOR
YBhg Dato’ Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal CEO of BiotechCorp
The latest addition to the Coca-Cola family is Coca‑Cola Life. Now found in several countries such as Argentina, Chile and Mexico, the product is the first lower-calorie cola sweetened from natural sources. Coca‑Cola Life is made with a blend of sugar and stevia leaf extract, and contains a third less sugar and a third fewer calories than Coca‑Cola.
You may want to know that PureCircle, a BioNexus status company and the world’s leading producer and marketer of high purity stevia ingredients is supplying up to 80% of the world stevia, including those used for Coke Life as well as Pepsi Next. The group has plantation activities in Kenya and Paraguay and is also supplying to other major multinationals including Danone, Nestle and Unilever.
This wellness trend has impacted many industries around the world. Leveraging on the use of natural and biological resources to produce healthier consumer products for the wellbeing of people, Coca Cola Life is a clear example of current trends in bioeconomy that are driving innovative initiatives worldwide.
Malaysia can certainly take advantage from its biodiversity as well. In fact, bioeconomy has been identified as a game changer for Malaysia’s economic growth. Through the exploitation of biological resources and application of innovative bio-based technology, bioeconomy has the potential to generate many beneficial socio-economic impacts.
At this point of writing, BiotechCorp is already working hand-in-hand with Johor Biotechnology and Biodiversity Corporation (J-Biotech) to implement projects that will serve as primary catalyst for enhancing rural development, to increase productivity and economic growth.
Only a couple of weeks ago I have attended the Bio Johor 2014 Conference & Exhibition, held at the Persada Convention Centre in Johor Bahru. It was jointly organised by J-Biotech and BiotechCorp, as part of the national strategy to position bioeconomy as a key economic engine in the southern region.
The diversity of biological resources in Johor provides huge opportunities for the biotechnology industry development. Having J-Biotech as a strategic partner will no doubt help in driving the nation’s bioeconomy agenda. Through J-Biotech, BiotechCorp will continue to work closely with the Johor State Government into implementing strategies and programmes that will benefit rural community development in the state. New commercial opportunities in bioeconomy in Johor are poised to generate more than RM100 million in Gross National Income for the country by year 2020.
I must elaborate further that among the key highlights during the conference is the signing and exchange of documents for four separate proposals. The proposals were exchanged between BiotechCorp, J-Biotech and Koperasi Permuafakatan Kota Tinggi and four private bio-based companies. These companies are PureCircle Sdn Bhd to develop Stevia plantation, The Holstein Milk Company Sdn Bhd to develop dairy farm, BioAlpha (Johor Herbal) Sdn Bhd to develop herbs farm and Flora Bee Hive Enterprise Sdn Bhd to develop honeybee farm.
The core focus of these collaborative proposals is to transform the rural community socio-economic standing. The value chain encompasses the production of raw materials to bio-processing and manufacturing of value added products for market access. Central to the proposals is the Bioeconomy Community Development Programme. While unlocking the value of idle land and facilities in the state, farmers cultivate high value crops and livestocks using innovative bio-based tools.
An equally innovative business model will also ensure guaranteed income and at the same time improving the livelihoods for farmers. Subsequent production of agricultural produce will ensure a quality supply of raw material for BioNexus companies. Further to it, the proposals will also support the building of human capital and entrepreneurship development for the bio-based businesses in the state.
To conclude, the community-centric proposals for Johor have highlighted the focus of BiotechCorp to spearhead an inclusive strategy that provides equal employment and development opportunity for the people. To ensure the economic sustainability of these proposals, BiotechCorp has engaged strategic partners through cross ministerial-agencies and public-private collaborations. A few projects are already underway and many more to come.
Over the longer term, I am confident that through industry innovation, bioeconomy will greatly contribute to the development of Johor and the country in general. More similar projects aimed at utilising idle land and facilities will enable the country to reap the full benefits of the bio-based sector in generating a significantly large economic contribution to the nation’s economy by 2020 and beyond.